Carlos Santana Rumors

Al Notes: Fiers, Santana, Francona, Shapiro

Astros July trade acquisition Mike Fiers tossed a no hitter against the Dodgers last night. The 134 pitch performance was a microcosm of the Astros season, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Fiers, 30, was the second piece in the Carlos Gomez trade. He was supposed to provide a little depth in the rotation – not outmatch a potent Dodgers lineup. The Astros are also doing more than they ever were supposed to – they currently have a 3.5 game lead in the AL West with a 67-56 record. Of course, Fiers’ no hitter isn’t completely shocking. He’s posted a solid 3.63 ERA with 9.13 K/9 and 3.25 BB/9. The same can be said of the Astros success. The club obviously entered the season with a few good starting pitchers, a powerful offense, and a revamped bullpen.

Here are a few more notes out of Cleveland:

  • The Indians may want to consider trading first baseman Carlos Santana this offseason, opines Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.Santana, 29, used to offer more utility by playing catcher, third, and first. Now he’s locked into the cold corner due to concussion issues and shoddy defense. More importantly, his offensive performance is at a career worst. He’s been particularly bad from the right side which is peculiar given his strong career splits. Pluto lists several internal replacements. None are likely to approach Santana’s production.
  • Also per Pluto, rumors that Mark Shapiro is under consideration to become the next Blue Jays CEO won’t affect the roles of GM Mark Antonetti or manager Terry Francona. While Shapiro advises on baseball decisions, Antonetti has full authority in that sphere. Francona originally joined the Indians in part due to Shapiro, but he also has a strong relationship with Antonetti. He can opt out of his contract if either executive is fired, but it’s not clear if that extends to one of them leaving by choice. Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group echoes Pluto’s sentiments. He names a few internal candidates who could be promoted to club president, but also mentions CEO and owner Paul Dolan as a likely candidate.

AL Central Links: Indians, Avila, Berrios

The Indians have a lot of offseason work ahead of them, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, particularly when it comes to upgrading the team’s lineup.  The Tribe could use help at several spots around the diamond, and Hoynes intriguingly wonders how much the club could be counting on from Carlos Santana in 2016.  Santana entered today hitting .222/.355/.381 with 12 homers and a league-leading 74 walks over 439 plate appearances — still above-average offensive numbers (109 wRC+), though the power dropoff has to be a concern for Cleveland.  The Tribe wasn’t interested in dealing him before the deadline and since Santana is owed only $8.25MM in 2016 (plus a $12MM club option for 2017 with a $1.2MM buyout), I’d think he’s enough of a cost-effective asset that it makes more sense for the offense-starved Indians to keep him.  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Also from Hoynes’ piece, he doubts the Indians will make any big moves in free agency given how little return they got from Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Tribe’s last two major steps into the open market.
  • Alex Avila‘s pending free agency creates even more of an awkward position for both he and the Tigers now that his father Al is the team’s general manager, Fangraphs’ David Laurila writes.  “No one doubts the professionalism of either Avila,” Laurila notes, though the catcher’s concussion history, lack of hitting and James McCann‘s emergence hurts his case to return to Detroit.  Though retirement isn’t necessarily in the cards for the younger Avila anytime soon, Laurila notes that Alex has been tabbed by many as a potential future manager or front office member once he calls it a career.
  • In other Detroit front office news, Laurila also noted Sam Menzin’s promotion to the Tigers‘ director of baseball operations and calls Menzin “a future GM.”
  • Jose Berrios is performing well in Triple-A and, with the Twins‘ rotation struggling, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press suggests that Minnesota could turn to its top pitching prospect.  Twins assistant GM Rob Antony didn’t give any hints about a promotion, though he did praise Berrios and noted that the organization had no plans to shut the righty down as he approaches his career high in innings.  The Twins picked Berrios 32nd overall in the 2012 draft, and he ranked highly in preseason prospect lists from MLB.com (32nd) and Baseball America (36th), as well as a bump up to 19th on BA’s midseason top 50 prospects list.

Trade Market Notes: Papelbon, Indians, Cotts, Maybin

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon said today that he would be surprised and disappointed if he is not traded this summer, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. The veteran righty indicated that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for any contender — provided, that is, that he’d work in a closing capacity. “I think [the front office] knows where I’m at,” he said. “I’ve always been straightforward that I want to go play for a contender and I’m not going to shy away from it. I feel like that’s my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it’s in their hands. The ball’s in their court. I guess that’s kind of it.” While Papelbon’s preferences will play a significant role in his market, he’s done nothing but increase his trade value through his on-field performance this year. Entering today’s action, the 34-year-old owns a 1.65 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 — and a career-best 50.6% groundball rate — on the season.

  • The Indians are still alive for a post-season berth even though the club has underperformed expectations, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club will probably stand pat for the most part at the trade deadline. Cleveland is not terribly interested in dealing away Carlos Santana, but could consider moving David Murphy or Ryan Raburn, both of whom have been quite productive this year and can be controlled through fairly reasonable 2016 options. In the event that the Indians decide to add pieces, says Rosenthal, the club could target a pen arm or a bat (at an unidentified position — the left side of the infield seeming most likely).
  • The Twins and Brewers have had some preliminary trade chats, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports (Twitter links). It is not clear precisely what players were under discussion, though Berardino indicates that Milwaukee lefty Neal Cotts could hold some appeal to Minnesota.
  • Some opposing clubs believe the Braves could be interested in selling high on outfielder Cameron Maybin this summer, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Olney had previously indicated on Twitter that Atlanta was not interested in parting with Maybin, who’s been quite a pleasant surprise since coming over as part of the salary swaps in the Craig Kimbrel deal. But he could have significant appeal to teams in need of an outfielder, particularly if the market ends up being largely devoid of bats.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Athletics, Indians, Frazier

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:

  • The Athletics aren’t currently considering trading Scott Kazmir and aren’t yet letting go of their hopes of contending, Rosenthal says. The team was dealt another blow yesterday, however, in the form of setbacks to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, at least one of whom the A’s might have counted on later in the season to fill a spot in the rotation and bump Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen.
  • An executive says the Indians could be sellers this summer if their 10-18 season doesn’t dramatically improve. Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss could be on the block if they do. Santana is signed through 2016 with a reasonable option for 2017, while Moss has one more year of arbitration eligibility beyond this one before he can become a free agent.
  • Rosenthal wonders how it will be possible for the Reds to sign Todd Frazier long-term, given their already-heavy load of commitments to veterans. Rosenthal says Frazier is eligible for free agency after next season, although he actually isn’t eligible until after 2017 — his current contract carries through 2016, but the Reds can take him through arbitration once more after that. That one year makes a considerable difference, since it means the Reds already control Frazier through his age-31 season. As terrific a year as Frazier is having, trying to control him beyond 31 might be risky, and representative of the kinds of commitments that have caused the Reds’ current payroll headaches. Still, Rosenthal is probably right that Frazier could become a trade candidate at some point, given the Reds’ need to acquire young talent.

Trade Notes: Santana, Mets, Mariners, Reds, Wilson

Your mid-day roundup of trade-related rumors from the Winter Meetings:

  • The Indians have been contacted by teams with interest in dealing for first baseman and former catcher Carlos Santana, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi says that no deal is close, though that leaves unclear whether Cleveland has any actual interest in exploring deals for the slugger, who recovered from a slow start to put up a big 2014. Santana is under club control through 2017 (the last year by club option) at a very team-friendly price.
  • The Mets are not sure whether the Mariners really have interest in dealing one of their young shortstops (Brad Miller and Chris Taylor), Marc Carig of Newsday reports on Twitter. The clubs have been linked to various deals involving pitching from the former and infielders from the latter.
  • While the Reds are giving other teams the impression that they need to shed some salary, they are only willing to consider dealing outfielder Jay Bruce if they are overwhelmed by an offer, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The Angels have received some interest in starter C.J. Wilson, but at present other clubs are asking for L.A. to pay for part of his remaining deal, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link).

Carlos Santana Will Be Indians’ Regular Third Baseman

Indians manager Terry Francona said today that Carlos Santana will serve as the club's everyday third baseman, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports on Twitter. Francona emphasized that Santana will not platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall, but said that he will also serve as the team's backup catcher.

Needless to say, it appears that Cleveland's lineup construction will be interesting to watch as the season progresses. Of course, if Santana really does see regular part-time catching duties while playing every day in the field, any benefits from reduced wear and tear could be countered by the physical and mental burden of taking on a new position and receiving little rest. And if the team gives him some straight off days to account for this unusual challenge, rather than slotting him in at DH, it stands to lose his bat on those occasions. 

For his part, Chisenhall will make the squad but faces a "fluid" playing time situation, according to a Bastian tweet. We broke down some of the potential hot stove implications of this possible move back in January. 


Quick Hits: Choo, Turner, Mets, Lambo, Santana

The seven-year, $140MM offer that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo was only on the table for less than a day.  As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes, New York offered Choo the contract and then pulled it back almost as quickly in order to instead sign Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45MM deal.  "In my opinion, it takes some time to make a decision, maybe at least a couple days," Choo said. "You want to learn a city and a team. They gave me 21 hours."  The Yankees' withdrawal could've been due to Beltran simply accepting his offer first, or perhaps because Scott Boras (Choo's agent), reportedly asked the Yankees to match the $153MM the Bombers gave to Jacoby Ellsbury.  Choo didn't end up doing too badly for himself at any rate, signing a seven-year, $130MM deal with the Rangers.

Here's some news from around the baseball world…

  • CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman lists 14 players who could traded during Spring Training.  Most of these names have popped up on the pages of MLBTR over the last few weeks, though one new name is Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner.  Heyman says there's "not a great chance" Miami would deal Turner but since the Marlins have a lot of good young pitchers, "folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins might move in that right deal" for offensive help.
  • Ike Davis' calf injury has not only set back the Mets' first base competition, but it has also ruined any possible chance of a trade showcase for Davis during Spring Training, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes.  The Brewers, Pirates and Orioles have all been connected to Davis in trade rumors during the offseason but obviously no move will be made any time soon, as Davis is currently in a walking boot and recently had an MRI on his right calf.
  • Speaking of the Pirates' first base search, the team could end up finding its left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez already on the roster in the form of Andrew Lambo, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  While maturity issues and a 50-game suspension reportedly relating to marijuana use have set back Lambo's career, he is still only 25 and has posted some strong power numbers in the minors.
  • "I just don't see what we have to lose," Indians manager Terry Francona says about Carlos Santana's attempted conversion to third base.  FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal recaps the reasons behind Santana's surprising decision to try the hot corner and how it could be a boon for the Tribe if Santana could handle the position.
  • Nate Schierholtz wants to remain with the Cubs but is cognizant of the fact that could be traded, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports.  The veteran outfielder said he hasn't spoken to Cubs management about staying beyond his current one-year contract.  Recent rumors put Schierholtz on the trading block thanks to Ryan Kalish's progress, not to mention the fact that Kalish is playing on a minor league deal while Schierholtz is owed $5MM this season.

AL Central Notes: Masterson, De Aza, Santana, Tigers

Many have been quick to call Justin Masterson's reported three-year extension proposal to the Indians a bargain, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a step back and wonders how benevolent Masterson is really being. Cameron admits that he, too, initially considered a three-year, $45MM or four-year, $60MM deal to be a huge value, but he looks at the cognitive bias of "anchoring," in which we subconsciously turn an initial price for one item into an anchor price for others. Cameron argues that rather than comparing Masterson to the statistically similar Homer Bailey, who signed away five free agent years for $95MM, we should look at Masterson's expected value over the next three to four years. Doing so presents the case that Masterson's offer is fair, but hardly a tremendous discount for Cleveland. He adds that the Indians aren't a club that can afford to pay market value for too many wins, so it may not be as much of a no-brainer as many initially believed.

More from the AL Central…

  • While he's yet to determine if the Twins have placed a call, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN knows that White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza has quite a few fans in Minnesota's front office (Twitter link). De Aza would seem a peculiar fit for the Twins in my opinion, given the fact that he has just two years of team control and Minnesota has a number of young outfielders and outfield prospects.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while he didn't look like a catcher trying to play third base in practice, that's exactly how Carlos Santana has looked thus far in Cactus League games. Hoynes describes his play as "stiff and uncomfortable," though he notes that Santana has had few chances to this point and could improve by playing consecutive games at the position. For the time being, it appears to be good news for Lonnie Chisenhall, as if Santana doesn't man third, he would DH and serve as a backup at first, catcher and occasionally third.
  • Left-hander Blaine Hardy has gone from being released by the Royals last year to a minor league flier for the Tigers to a leading candidate to join Detroit's bullpen this season, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. Hardy posted a 1.67 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, serving as both a starter and reliever. He's allowed one hit in five innings this spring, catching the eye of manager Brad Ausmus and establishing himself as one of the top candidates to fill a long reliever role at the big league level.

Carlos Santana Expects To Play Third For Indians

MONDAY: In the "Around the Horn" section of his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that despite Santana's comments, club officials will wait until Spring Training to make a definitive call on his position. The team still hasn't ruled out using Chisenhall at third base, according to Rosenthal.

FRIDAY: Carlos Santana has served as the club's primary backstop for the last three seasons, but says he is preparing to play at the hot corner in 2014, according to ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas (Spanish language link). Though Santana was known to be trying his hand at a return to third — where he spent some time early in his professional career — this report indicates a much more serious likelihood of a position shift.

As Santana explains (all translation errors mine), he is only preparing to play third at this point in time. "Those are the plans of the team at this moment," Santana said. Indicating that the club asked him to give third a try, Santana said he "took a month thinking about it before accepting."

Santana seemed destined to spend less time at the catcher position anyway next season, for several reasons. To begin with, the 27-year-old's bat is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond. Last year, he posted a .268/.377/.455 triple-slash, including twenty home runs, in 642 plate appearances. That was good for a 137 OPS+, a particularly impressive mark given that Santana labored behind the dish for 84 games.

And while any player can theoretically be more valuable while playing a defense-first position like catcher, Santana had increasingly struggled at the spot. Defensive Runs Saved panned Santana's work in 2013, and recent pitch framing metrics (e.g., here and here) have viewed him as a poor framer. There were good reasons for Cleveland to limit Santana's defensive impact, though of course third is hardly the easiest position. (And UZR has not looked kindly on Santana's 942 2/3 career innings at first, though he told Rojas that he never felt comfortable there.) 

Most importantly, perhaps, is the emergence of Yan Gomes, who was picked up from the Blue Jays in a deal that has strongly favored the Indians to date. The 26-year-old's emergence last year played a big role in fueling the club's Wild Card run. He hit .294/.345/.481 in 322 plate appearances, splitting time at catcher with Santana. In just 88 games, Gomes was worth 3.7 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR, drawing positive reviews for his defensive work.

The news on Santana could have hot stove implications. For one, it may explain why the club has done little to push Lonnie Chisenhall outside of inking David Adams, who has just 152 big league plate appearances under his belt despite the fact that he will turn 27 in May. For what it is worth, Santana is a better hitter from the right side (.855 OPS vs. .794 OPS hitting lefty), though he'd surely find his bat at another position in the lineup if he were to platoon at third.

Of course, if Cleveland no longer plans to give Chisenhall regular at-bats, it raises the question why the team was so hesitant to part with him in a prospective Matt Garza trade deadline deal. And if Santana were to spend significant time at third, it could make the 25-year-old a candidate to be dealt. He was once a top-25 prospect, and his career .694 OPS has come in only 682 plate appearances over three MLB seasons.

If Santana is able to play a passable third, moreover, it could impact the fate of both he and Gomes. Spending less energy behind the dish, and more time in the lineup, could lead to bigger offensive numbers for Santana. He would make for quite an interesting multi-position player, given his outstanding bat, and would increase his stock as a trade piece or eventual free agent. (He is signed through 2016, plus the Indians hold an option for the following season.) 

As for Gomes, the shifting of the club's prized young catcher off of the catching position would open up a world of opportunity. Gomes would presumably be looked upon as the catcher of the future in Cleveland. The Oliver and Steamer projection systems (via Fangraphs) both project him to keep hitting at better than league average, and view him as a three or four win player in a full-time role. Eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season, Gomes would have a chance to build real value through arbitration or as an extension candidate.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Beltran, Furcal, Mets, Twins, Ellis, Santana

The Royals are very interested in Carlos Beltran, but the Yankees remain the favorites to sign him, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. "I think at this point it would be an upset if he didn’t end up there," one executive tells Sherman. The Yankees have thus far been unwilling to give Beltran a three-year deal, but they could eventually land him by giving him three years or by paying heavily for two. Regardless of the Yankees' current issues, the perception of the Yanks as a winning organization matters to Beltran, even though they won fewer games than Kansas City did last year. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Sherman writes that the Mets are no longer interested in free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, because of concerns about his health. The Mets are looking for an upgrade over Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
  • Furcal himself says that the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Nationals, Rockies and other teams have shown interest in him, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (link in Spanish).
  • After failing to find common ground on a contract extension, the Padres would listen to offers for Chase Headley, Sherman reports. The question is how he should be valued — Headley hit .286/.376/.498 in a terrific 2012 season, then came back to earth with a .250/.347/.400 season in 2013.
  • Even after landing Ricky Nolasco, the Twins will continue to strongly pursue free agents and trade possibilities, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The Twins have been connected to any number of starting pitchers, including Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes and trade targets Homer Bailey and Jeremy Hellickson. They've also been tied to catchers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski.
  • The Twins aren't the only suitors for Hughes, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Royals are also making "a strong push" for the former Yankees righty. Hughes is expected to receive a two-year deal, with the Mariners and Angels potentially being involved along with the Royals and Twins. Berardino also points out that Hughes' agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, also represents Jason Vargas, who recently signed a four-year deal with Kansas City.
  • The Royals need a second baseman, and a team official recently told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton that the Royals think Mark Ellis "has something left" (via Twitter). Ellis, 36, hit just .270/.323/.351 last season with the Dodgers, but he's a consistently-above-average defensive player.
  • Carlos Santana of the Indians would like to play in the field more, but the Indians already have good options at catcher in Yan Gomes and at first base in Nick Swisher. Instead, then, Santana would like to try third base, and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians are interested in the possibility, in part because Santana is taking initiative rather than complaining. (He's working out at third at the Indians' Dominican facility.) Whether Santana can field at third base is an open question — he hasn't played more than a handful of games at the position since 2006, when he was in the Dodgers' minor-league system. If the Indians have any confidence he can play there, though, they might be less inclined to pursue a righty-hitting third-base type this offseason. Lefty-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled last season, currently sits atop the Indians' depth chart at third.